Pro-government forces attack US, Kurdish troops in eastern Syria
February 8 at 12:22 AM Email the author
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jamie Jarrord (left) thanks Manbij Military Council commander Muhammed Abu Adeel during a visit to a small outpost near the town of Manbij in northern Syria on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Susannah George)
Pro-government forces in Syria launched an assault on a base where U.S. troops were operating in support of local partner units, triggering a counterattack from U.S. aircraft, the U.S. military said on Wednesday.
In a statement, the U.S.-led military coalition tasked with battling the Islamic State called the attack southeast of the city of Deir Ezzour in eastern Syria âunprovoked.â
âThe coalition remains com mitted to focusing on the defeat-Daesh mission in the Middle Euphrates River Valley and asserts its non-negotiable right to act in self-defense,â the statement said, using an Arabic term for the Islamic State.
The incident marks one of a limited number of times in which the United States has struck out directly at forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Last year, U.S. aircraft shot down a Syrian jet after pro-government forces attacked U.S. allied units in northern Syria.
There are about 2,000 American troops in Syria, mostly operating in support of the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), a Kurdish-dominated group that have helped expel the Islamic State from most areas it once controlled.
It comes as the United States seeks to close out its campaign against the extremists in Syria and Iraq. But the Trump administrationâs hope for a lessening of hostilities in Syriaâs larger civil war has not materialized so far, as Turkish, Russian, Iranian and othe r forces are brought into ever closer proximity as they vie to determine control of and pursue their own long-term interests in Syria.
A military official, who provided information about the attack on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it on the record, said the attacking forces initiated the assault by lobbing artillery at the SDF and U.S. forces, who were located eight miles east of the Euphrates River. The river has acted as a âdeconfliction lineâ between Syrian government forces and U.S.-backed SDF units in some areas of Syria.
Overall, the pro-government force included about 500 people supported by rocket and mortar systems and Soviet-era tanks, the official said. Up to 30 artillery and tank rounds came within 500 yards of an SDF headquarters.
U.S. and Kurdish forces responded to that skirmish with air and artillery strikes, the official said.
The official said about 100 pro-government forces were killed in the c ounterattack. Officials declined to say whether the airstrikes were conducted with manned or unmanned aircraft.
Officials said no U.S. troops were injured or killed. One SDF member was injured.
The official said it appeared the pro-government forces were trying to reassert government control of areas that the SDF troops had seized from the Islamic State last year, and possibly to capture oilfields in the area.
U.S. officials said it was not immediately clear whether the attacking forces were part of the the Syrian military or belonged to foreign militias or other units who fight in support of the government.
Another military official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said not all the attacking forces were wearing uniforms, making it more difficult to identify them. âItâs not always readily apparentâ what sort of forces they are maneuvering on the ground in Syriaâs crowded battlespace, he said.
Neither was it clear whether Russi a, which is conducting its own air campaign in support of the Syrian government, may have had any role in the incident.Source: Google News